BEFORE this game, Joachim LÃ¶w stated the most obvious fact of all concerning this reprise of the World Cup final, saying: â€œArgentina canâ€™t have that game back.â€ Well, Germanyâ€™s manager certainly does not want this game back, because the defeat put his admittedly weakened team firmly in their place, 52 days after they became world champions for the fourth time.
The Germany defence was spared the tantalising runs and energy of Ãngel di MarÃa on that night in Rio de Janeiro because the winger was injured, but clearly he is now fit and re-energised. Of course, that could all change for him when he goes back to Manchester United next week. But on this form, you could not help but think ahead to what damage he may do to Premier League defences when he links up with Radamel Falcao in Unitedâ€™s colours. Ã‰rik Lamela, the Tottenham forward, also scored a fine goal.
But Di MarÃa was the party-pooper. He made it his night, with one goal and three assists, when the occasion was meant to be a celebration of Germanyâ€™s success in Brazil. Presumably, Argentina did not see the bit on the invite about not taking this game seriously. And the Germany defence did not get the invite at all, because they did not turn up. Without the retired Philipp Lahm and the absent Mats Hummels and JÃ©rÃ´me Boateng, there were three relatively new faces in front of Manuel Neuer, and the goalkeeper was left horribly exposed time and again.
It all seemed a very long time since that July night when Germany beat Argentina in the World Cup final thanks to Mario GÃ¶tzeâ€™s extra-time goal. The warm-up for this game included, naturally, highlights of their campaign in Brazil, which somewhat bizarrely included the BBCâ€™s commentary of the moment the Nationalmannschaft became world champions. But the organisers did not stop there. Their World Cup win in 1990 â€“ also against Argentina â€“ got an airing on the big screens inside the Esprit Arena as well. In a nice touch, all their World Cups wins were honoured, eight boys and girls each holding a flag with the relevant years inside a gold star.
And then all the 51,000 fans, at one perfectly choreographed moment, flipped over a piece of black, red or yellow plastic, the colours of the national flag. No doubt a few tears were shed around the country at that point. There were maybe more tears, for different reasons, at the final whistle.
The heartstrings were tugged still further before kick-off. Those who retired from the national team in the summer â€“ Lahm, Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker â€“ were here too and were honoured by the German Football Association. Poor old Argentina must have wondered what they were doing at this love-in. As it turned out, they were here to win a football match.
Maybe that footage from this summer and 1990â€™s had motivated them. But a heavy defeat, a player being booed off: it was not supposed to be like this for the World Cup winners, and LÃ¶w said as much afterwards. He kindly thanked everyone for turning up, and then said he really needed to start looking forward to Euro 2016 and not keep harking back to Brazil, thank you very much.
The locals, all 51,132 of them, booed Mario Gomez â€“ who was not in Brazil â€“ when he was taken off. He had three good chances and took none of them. At this rate, LÃ¶w will be putting in a call to Klose to come back for one more game. Germany play Scotland on Sunday in their first Euro 2016 qualifier, in Dortmund. Gordon Strachan may actually be looking forward to it.
Amid the increasing gloom, there was one slightly comic element. The match announcer who had started off in such high spirits dutifully did his job, but as each Argentina goal went in he sounded so deflated and in such despair that you feared for him. Thankfully AndrÃ© SchÃ¼rrle and Mario GÃ¶tze eventually reduced the deficit, putting a bit more oomph into his delivery.
But before SchÃ¼rrle scored, Di MarÃa had inspired his team to a 4-0 lead. He led Erik Durm, the Germany left-back, a merry dance all night, and he looked every inch the player who was man of the match in last seasonâ€™s Champions League final with Real Madrid. He set up the first two goals before the break, the first for Sergio AgÃ¼ero and then Lamela, and just after the interval his free-kick found Federico FernÃ¡ndez at the far post for the third. His goal, and Argentinaâ€™s fourth, saw him run in on goal from 40 yards before he chipped the substitutegoalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller.
Even if LÃ¶w was talking on Tuesday about winning Euro 2016, he had ready-made excuses for this performance. Only Neuer, Toni Kroos and Christoph Kramer from the team that began in Rio started. Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger have not played this season and Sami Khedira was injured playing for Real Madrid on Sunday. GÃ¶tze, who scored that World Cup-winning goal, started on the bench, which was exactly where he started the World Cup final, although here he got his regulation goal 12 minutes before the end. SchÃ¼rrle had poked past Sergio Romero earlier in the half.
Argentinaâ€™s new manager, Gerardo Martino, who replaced Alejandro Sabella after the World Cup final, has not seen any of his senior players retire this summer and was therefore able to call up a near replica of the World Cup final team: seven starters from that night started here, and it showed. But Lionel Messi was not one, as he was injured playing for Barcelona on Sunday. However, the most expensive player in British football was on show and was on good form.
Di MarÃa got his country going when he curled a fine pass with the outside of his left foot for AgÃ¼eroâ€™s goal. That was not a combination Argentina were able to count on in the final, with AgÃ¼ero hampered by his hamstrings throughout the tournament. LÃ¶w was asked if Di MarÃa would have made the difference in July. He replied tersely: â€œDi MarÃa is a fine player but we would still have won that game.â€ Martino called his winger â€œone of the five best players in the worldâ€ and said his country had missed him sorely in the final.
That first goal killed the party atmosphere stone dead but it was not the only time that the new-look Germany defence seemed uncertain of its bearings. Considering the ease with which Di MarÃa was getting past Durm it was little surprise when the second goal arrived. Unitedâ€™s Â£59.7m signing worked his way to the byline and crossed for Lamela who nonchalantly volleyed home from 12 yards. It was a brilliant goal but it showed what a difference a makeshift defence makes. It was not the sort of goal Germany conceded in Brazil. They celebrate when they can in this part of western Germany but the World Cup party has well and truly ended. – The Independent